LAS VEGAS - Legendary entertainer and gaming entrepreneur Merv Griffin was honored with a lifetime achievement award for gaming and entertainment and inducted into the Gaming Hall of Fame at the American Gaming Association’s (AGA) second annual America’s Gaming Greats awards dinner Wednesday night.
Gaming pioneer Shannon Bybee, executive director of the UNLV International Gaming Institute and a former gaming executive and industry regulator, was also honored with a special achievement award for responsible gaming.
More than 600 industry leaders attended the awards dinner at the Paris Las Vegas hotel-casino, bringing in more than $200,000. Proceeds from the event will benefit the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG), the only national organization devoted exclusively to public education and funding of peer-reviewed research on disordered gambling.
“The Gaming Hall of Fame is filled with the visionaries and legends who have helped shape the casino industry since it began, and I am honored to join such esteemed company,” Griffin said. “The gaming industry has emerged as one of the foundations of the American entertainment culture, and I am proud to have played a role in cultivating that success.”
Griffin is the former owner of Resorts International in Atlantic City and Paradise Island in the Bahamas. Griffin was also an original investor in riverboat casino company Players International. The Emmy Award-winning “The Merv Griffin Show,” ran for 23 years and often was taped at Caesars Palace and the Riviera in Las Vegas, and the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City, N.J.
“Merv’s contributions are unparalleled,” said American Gaming Association (AGA) President and CEO Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr. “In addition to his outstanding corporate leadership and tremendous success as an entertainer, he was one of the first to recognize the value of gaming expansion through the introduction of riverboat gambling, which has resulted in tremendous economic and social benefits for communities across the country.”
Bybee’s professional experience covers the range of gaming law, gaming operations, gaming regulation and gaming education. He served as a member of the Nevada Gaming Control Board from 1971 to 1975 and went on to practice law and hold several top executive positions in the gaming industry. Bybee was the first casino representative to serve on the board of directors of the National Council on Problem Gambling.
As a professor at UNLV’s William S. Boyd School of Law, Shannon immediately made an impact on course content by introducing problem gambling information into UNLV’s hotel college. A formal curriculum in now presented in all Hotel 101 classes.
“It is truly an honor to be recognized by the gaming industry for my work to promote an issue that is of great importance to me,” Bybee said. “The industry has made tremendous strides in funding problem gambling research through the NCRG and introducing responsible gaming education programs. I am proud to have been at the forefront of this movement, and I am excited to see the progress we make in the future.”
Guests at the dinner were treated to performances by some of Las Vegas’ top entertainers, including music legend Gladys Knight and singer/impressionist Andre-Philippe Gagnon. Comedian Rich Little served as master of ceremonies, and the menu featured culinary creations from some of the city’s leading celebrity chefs.
“The Gaming Greats awards dinner is a fantastic event that showcases not only the best of Las Vegas entertainment, but also the tremendous commitment of the gaming industry to funding important problem gambling research,” said NCRG Chairman Maj. Gen. Paul A. Harvey (Ret.). “I am encouraged by this continued support and look forward to working with the industry as we continue to support the highest quality scientific research on pathological and youth gambling.”